As many of my friends can attest, I am not a “make plans” person. I call people at the last minute and see if they want to leave for the city in a half hour. I stop by people’s houses unannounced, usually at dinnertime. I tend to brush off suggestions until I flip a coin to decide what I am going to do on the occasion that I have free time.
I’ll admit, this makes it annoying, sometimes, to be my friend. But when I’m cruising it alone—on nights like last night, when I left the house on foot not knowing where to go but just needing to walk around—the sensation of not having any plan or destination is a dream. Especially walking through downtown Santa Rosa at night in December; I should by rights be dulled to the feeling by now, but the lights through the mist and the buildings look lovelier to me every time.
I was hungry as hell and didn’t know where to eat when I passed Super Buffet, across from the Press Democrat building on Mendocino Avenue. Perfect. I soon found myself in an even more peaceful state: at a bustling restaurant, alone, gazing into my plate of microwave pizza and sweet & sour chicken and decompressing. I don’t meditate, but eating at a cheap place alone has been my mind-clearer for years now.
I remembered that Joni Davis’ thing was going on at the Orchard Spotlight, so after some more fried rice and Jello, I strolled over to the familiar house at 515 Orchard—obviously once an old church, with its vestibule and stained-glass windows—and walked in just as Deborah Frank was finishing her set, beating on a hand drum and leading the room in a call-and-response. The room was full of good people. There was a table full of cookies. I knew that my last-minute decision was a good one.
These three gals from Berkeley called Loretta Lynch played some good tunes—“Didn’t Leave Nobody But The Baby,” an original called “Drinkin’ for Two” written while pregnant. A poet recited some pretty great poetry, and “pretty great poetry” is not a phrase I use very often. Joni played songs from time to time, and Chris projected videos of elves drinking beer while Lila sang a “Twelve Days of Christmas” full of suicide bombers, unemployment, a failing global economy and six more weeks before Bush leaves office, which got a huge cheer each time it came around.
Josh from the Crux, above, reminded me why I like “Tears of Rage” so much, and Doug Jayne and Ron Stinnett reminded me about the great Stephen Foster song, “Hard Times Come Again No More,” which complimented perfectly the mood of the night (and the cause, benefiting the Redwood Empire Food Bank during the cold winter months). “Let us pause in life’s pleasures and count its many tears,” the song begins, going on to sympathize with the frail forms and drooping maidens who faint and sigh all the day with worn hearts and poor troubles. Right on, Stephen Foster—and here I’d thought it was all about “Oh Susanna” and “Camptown Races”!
At the end of the show, Joni Davis sang an acapella hymn from the 14th Century, and then thanked the overflow room profusely for helping a worthy cause and creating community. Afterwards, all along my warm-hearted walk home in the cold air through beautiful downtown Santa Rosa, I dwelled on her closing words: “Just remember,” she said, “while people are shooting each other at Toys ‘R Us and trampling each other at Wal-Mart… this is Christmas.”